Ohio State took over the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press college basketball poll yesterday, the first time the Buckeyes have held the top ranking since 1962 when they were led by Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek and on a run of three straight Final Fours.
Led by freshmen Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr., Ohio State advanced one day after beating Wisconsin in a meeting of Nos. 1 and 2. OSU had been ranked No. 1 by the coaches in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
"You hate that there had to be a team that lost that game," Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said, referring to his team's 49-48 victory over the Badgers that clinched a second straight Big Ten title. "Fortunately for us we made the bucket at the end and came away on top."
Ohio State (26-3) moved up one spot in the rankings, receiving 62 first-place votes and 1,786 points from the 72-member national media panel. It is the Buckeyes' first time as No. 1 in the AP rankings since the final poll of the 1961-62 season.
Ohio State was ranked No. 1 for all of 1960-61 and 1961-62, a run of 27 straight polls. The Buckeyes won the national championship in 1960 and lost the title game to Cincinnati in 1961 and 1962.
"I think in our situation it's more for the people outside our program to focus on," Matta said. "Our focus, as I said to the team right after the game, is we have to do what got us to this position and that's a day-by-day approach to find ways to improve individually and our whole system as we play. It's odd to win a second championship and still have to play another game and then the conference tournament. It's a big challenge for our guys to go out and find ways to get better."
The Buckeyes will finish the regular season at Michigan on Saturday, and Matta welcomes a break of almost a a week.
"We need the time off since we've been beat up and have been hit by the flu bug," Matta said, adding Ron Lewis and Jamar Butler were bothered by the flu in recent days. "We can take time to get guys back on the right track."
Ohio State, ranked No. 1 in the coaches' poll last week, is the fifth team to reach the top of the AP poll this season, joining Florida, UCLA, North Carolina and Wisconsin. It's the most teams to reach No. 1 since there were six in 2003-04.
UCLA (25-3), which locked up the Pac-10 title this weekend, moved from fourth to second. The Bruins received the other 10 first-place votes.
Kansas jumped from sixth to third and Wisconsin, which also lost to Michigan State, fell to fourth after reaching No. 1 for the first time in school history. Florida, which lost to LSU, fell from third to fifth.